Offshore Wind Farms

Offshore Wind Farms

Australia, and the developing world such as China and India, continue to rely heavily on coal fired power generation. But how much investment is being made in developing alternative renewable sources of energy; solar, wind and wave? We believe there is little doubt the technology is readily available, it’s the will to develop these alternatives that’s missing. Or is the lower financial return that’s preventing big business and governments getting behind anything more than token project?

An interesting article out of the U.S. offers some hope for the future of alternative energy production.

U.S. developing offshore wind farms

According to a new report for the Department of Energy, the U.S. has nearly a dozen wind farms in the works.

The U.S. is steadily inching toward installing some offshore wind power, with nearly a dozen projects in the works, according to a new report prepared for the Department of Energy. But although the report labels all of those projects as being in the “advanced stages” of development, their prospects are far from certain. And global industry trends – toward bigger projects farther offshore that perform better but are costly to build – only emphasize the hurdles the sector faces.

The update on the offshore wind market by the consultancy Navigant [PDF], intended to help guide policy decisions on the nascent U.S. industry, points out that “the United States is still awaiting the installation of its first commercial-scale offshore wind project.” But that doesn’t mean some progress hasn’t been made since last year’s report.

Two of the projects are in state waters off Texas, one is in Lake Erie near Cleveland, and the other eight are clustered in state and federal waters in an Atlantic Coast zone stretching from Virginia to Massachusetts. The projects add up to 3,842 MW of planned capacity (for context, as of the end of 2012, worldwide offshore installed capacity was 5,248 MW, 93 percent of which was in European waters. Nearly all the rest was in China (365 MW), with Japan (5 MW) and South Korea (2 MW) dipping their toes in the water too.

Three of the projects have targeted completion dates of 2015 – Deepwater’s 30-MW Block Island demo project; the 27-MW Lake Erie project and Fishermen’s Energy’s 25-MW wind farm off New Jersey. Looming much larger on the horizon is Cape Wind, which is planned for 468 MW and expects to begin construction before the end of 2015. All the projects have specific hurdles to overcome, however, and on the whole Navigant identified three major challenges for the U.S. offshore wind development: the cost competitiveness of offshore wind energy; a lack of infrastructure such as offshore transmission and purpose-built ports and vessels and, uncertain and lengthy regulatory processes.

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